Theatre ran in the veins of Sarah Thorne. One could say that she was born into the theatre life, since her father, Richard Samuel Thorne, was himself both a theatre manager and thespian. Her two younger siblings, Thomas and George, also followed their father’s footsteps into the theatre world.
Sarah Thorne was the eldest of Richard and Sarah’s 10 children. She was born in London in 1836. She debuted the stage at the tender age of 12 in a pantomime which her actor father was producing. She followed up her debut with performances with companies across Great Britain, and then in summer of 1855, she joined her father’s acting company. She lived in Ireland for a while, where she performed lead roles at Dublin’s Theatre Royal, for three seasons. She followed this up with tours in Scotland and Ireland.
After her return to the UK, she took on Theatre Royal’s lease of the Margate in her father’s place, and became an actress-manager. Her managerial role there ended in 1873, when the lease got auctioned off. This didn’t deter her from pursuing theatre management, and, in 1876, she started running the Theatre Royal, Worcester. Not only was she booking touring companies for performances there, she was producing plays with her own troupe. Sadly the theatre burnt to the ground in 1877, so Sarah created yet another touring company. She returned to Margate’s Theatre Royal in 1879, when the lease became available again.
In addition to her work as actress-manager, in 1885 she opened an acting school at Margate’s Theatre Royal. This was regarded as the first formal acting school in Britain. In 1894 Sarah added a second venue for her theatre company, the Chatham Lecture Hall. She performed until 1898, and died in 1899, after which her son, Edmund Macknight, began running her theatres.